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Sic worries lest Ratzinger get infallibility, because three know-alls is a crowd

The sentence you are reading is the first one in history to include Sic, Pope John Paul II, Fr. Hans Kung, Sr. Joan Chittister and Cardinal Ratzinger, all cheek by jowl. We think this gives Sic new stature. And throw in Hildegard of Bingen if you wish. This thesis, whatever it is, seems to bear out Sic's point that the road to advancement in the Catholic church is paved with good connections.

For example, experts have been saying that if you are a protégé of Boston's Cardinal Law (you become a protégé, they say, when he becomes your mentor) you are about 14 times more likely to become a U.S. bishop. Don't ask Sic about the mechanics of this. God works in mysterious ways, that's all.

Still, if Sic had pontifical ambitions, we sure would want Law for a mentor rather than, say, Jesus, whose protégés all got martyred in one painful way or another.

* * *

This Space vows we will never succumb to another Pet of the Week, which was a tacky idea in the first place. Still, we pride ourself on being reasonable, so when Maggie Calaba Wardlaw sent yet another picture of Floppy, our first Pet of the Week, with the words "Good bye, Sic, till we meet again," words allegedly spoken by Floppy herself, we bowed to the inevitable.

Floppy, when first found by Wardlaw, was a bedraggled, flea-bitten, hungry waif. And look at her now -- wishing she were a bedraggled, flea-bitten waif out there frolickin' with other waifs again.

* * *

Grown-ups know little about science but kids are getting the hang of it, as these exam paper excerpts from fifth and sixth graders show:

"One horsepower is the amount of energy it takes to drag a horse 500 feet in one second."

"You can listen to thunder after lightening and tell how close you came."

"When they broke open molecules, they found they were only stuffed with atoms. But when they broke open atoms, they found them stuffed with explosions."

"Some day we may discover how to make magnets that can point in any direction."

"Most books now say our sun is a star. But it still knows how to change back into a sun in the daytime."

"A vibration is a motion that cannot make up its mind which way it wants to go."

"There are 26 vitamens in all, but some of the letters are yet to be discovered."

* * *

Everyone knows Lincoln's Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, who a year ago went down in history -- not to mention theology -- by excommunicating some allegedly uppity Christians. Sic has seen a copy of Bruskewitz's response to other flock members who wrote him: "Dear Jack and Jill [not their real names]: Your letter of April 28, 1996, has been received. It will surely receive all the attention it deserves."

Some may say it's a mean, skimpy letter, but Sic is sure that B, far from being mean, wants to give people a good laugh. He signs off: "May God, our heavenly Father, fill you with the graces of the Easter season." These, if you ask Sic, are not the words of a man who would muscle people out of the church.

* * *

Bmpapp from cyberspace writes to remind us of the CNS story to the effect that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said that Pope Paul VI did great damage to the church by changing the liturgy. "Is this an infallible statement?" Bmpapp asks, raising serious issues.

We can well imagine that the reigning pope was none too happy when he heard, if he ever did, that Sic had joined him in the ranks of the infallible. Just use your imagination: Up to now, you are the ultimate tomato when it comes to the last word on stuff. Then lo! -- from the dubious USA comes word of a usurper claiming, like yourself, to have all the answers if only you choose to reveal them. Anyone can see it raises questions.

This, frankly, resembles our own reaction when Cardinal Ratzinger tried to muscle in on the infallibility franchise. We are strongly of the view that two infallible parties are plenty and any more would be a crowd. We waited for a call from the pope on this, but nothing so far.

* * *

Now comes the moment of truth in the matter of the Amazing Big Sic Limerick Competition. What amazes Sic is the time real human beings took to sit down and write this stuff. For starters there's this nifty one by Sr. Margaret Ann from West Orange:

For centuries since Noah's ark,
The Spirit is building with bark
Out of people who care,
Who faithfully share,
Lit from his prominent spark.

* * *

The following was submitted by a Benedictine prior:

There once was a column named Sic,
Which gave all monsignors a kick.
It waxed quite unflappable
And even infallible
And shocked every anglo and mick.

* * *

Sic's problem was whether to award the prize, a Ronald Reagan T-shirt full of nostalgia, to the best or worst entry. Our handlers said no such distinction existed. Meanwhile, here's Bill Dillon of South Bend:

Some say Sic is vaguely heretical,
Fomenting thoughts quite schismatical,
But it has got panache
And humor, by gosh,
Which renders such judgment antithetical.
Not content to leave bad enough alone, Dillon submits a second effort but gets stuck, leaving posterity to supply the last line:

The anonymous author of Sic
Considers herself to be slick,
But though without fault,
She should come to a halt

* * *

The ubiquitous Br. William of Holy Writ would, if there were a runner-up prize, be the runner up, for the profundity of his doctrine and the bigness of his words, as follows:

Should the bishops of Rome be forgiven
For sins against folks who aren't livin'?
Who confessed they dissented --
And never repented?
(They were slaughtered instead of just shriven.)
Yes, reformers should be tolerating
To bishops who've been irritating --
Provided they promise
To each doubting Thomas,
They'll cease from their infallibating.

* * *

And the winner is -- Julie Howard of St. Cloud, up there where it's watery. "I have been feeling blocked and blue for weeks," she writes. "Today, my fluids are beginning to flow like the ice melting in my driveway." This is the result:

To reinstate lewd, cheeky rhyme,
He needed to work double-time.
So he got on the phone
And ordered a clone.
Now Sic and page two both read fine.

What clinched the deal was an afterthought by Howard upon reading our March 14 editorial:

The pope says that if I re-wed,
But stay on my side of the bed,
I'm back in the ranks,
But I say, "no thanks,
"I'd rather be Lutheran instead."

Sic's spouse insists the Reagan T-shirt be washed one more time, though Sic can't see why. Congratulations to everyone.

National Catholic Reporter, May 23, 1997